Chicago Cubs: Three key factors in series with Detroit Tigers

Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs, Trevor Williams
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs and Tigers are set for a three-game series over the weekend. Here are three key factors to keep close tabs on throughout the series.

After a tough series in Cleveland, the Chicago Cubs are back on the horse in the Motor City facing the Detroit Tigers for three games. The Tigers enter the series with a 13-24 record, second-worst in the American League Central Division, but they’ve won their last four games, including a sweep over the Kansas City Royals.

Playing in an American League ballpark, the DH will be in play for the Chicago Cubs, but a rash of injuries on the roster raises questions about which player will fill the role this weekend. On paper, the Cubs should win at least two-of-three, but David Ross’ club has been up-and-down through the first 36 games.

Here are three things to keep in mind throughout this series.

light. Related Story. Five key takeaways from series with Indians

1. Cubs starters versus Detroit’s bullpen

Jake Arrieta is the probable pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. He hasn’t pitched since April 30 in Cincinnati, when he allowed a season-high seven earned runs. This series will be a battle of Cubs starting pitching versus the Tigers bullpen, as in, which group will be worse.

As a staff, the Cubs’ 5.18 ERA ranks second-worst in the league, ahead of only the Angels. With Arrieta set to go on Friday, the Cubs will hand the ball to Trevor Williams and Kyle Hendricks on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The former owns a 5.81 ERA through his first seven starts, including a 10.64 ERA away from Wrigley Field.

Hendricks hasn’t looked like himself this season, posting a 6.23 ERA through seven starts. The 31-year-old has allowed a league-leading 48 hits, 24 earned runs, and 11 home runs.

Conversely, the Tigers starting rotation owns a respectable 3.93 ERA, but their bullpen has been abysmal, with a 6.62 ERA as a group. For reference, that’s nearly 1.3 runs worse than the second-worst bullpen in the Reds. Jose Cisnero has been heavily utilized this season, and the 32-year-old has been very hit-or-miss this season, literally. He has an impressive 13.50 K/9 but has been susceptible to walks (4.5 BB/9) and the long ball (23.1%).

A handful of other guys with meaningful innings in Daniel Norris, Bryan Garcia, Alex Lange, and Buck Farmer have not been great. If the Cubs can’t get to the Tigers’ starters, they should have better luck against their bullpen.